Sunday I ran the MO Cowbell Half Marathon in St Charles, Missouri. It was the second year of the race, and the second time I had run it. It was a nice race last year, and this year looked to be even better—a little bigger but still pretty small for a half (3000 runners or so) but with decent crowd support and a fairly flat course.
I went to pick up my packet on Friday—there was a small expo too, which was fun. I didn’t have too much time but managed to score a couple of free samples and try some various kinds of protein and energy drinks.
I was pretty nervous about the race since my training had basically gotten derailed by my trip to France (I know, poor me), my subsequent cold, and then a bit of a niggling hip problem…I had had to cut my last long run of 10 miles short by 4, and then hadn’t run since. I figured I’d manage to struggle through but my time might not be great. Then again, another part of me thought, hey, maybe I’ll be miraculously awesome and PR.
My friend Jen was running it too and we rode together to the race. It was really cold (under 40 degrees) at the start, so I wore a "throwaway" shirt over another long sleeve tech shirt over a tank top, over shorts. I thought this combination worked pretty well, actually, but the cold took us by surprise. The race started at Frontier Park in St Charles (about 30 minutes from St Louis), and we were warned to get there early for parking. We left my house around 5:45 (did you know there is a 5:45 am as well as pm!?) and got to the exit by 6:15 or so. It took about 15 minutes to get to the parking lot from there as it was backed up a little but not too badly. We parked, sat in the warm car a few more minutes and then it was porta potty time!
We also debated skipping the race, going straight to breakfast, and just telling people we ran it, but we decided that would be dishonest, and also a secret we’d have to take to the grave that just might not be worth it. We puttered around as one does at these things, (and ran into Sarah Crowder who was on the job taking pictures of us runners for the race), and finally it was time to line up.
This trailer was near the start.
I left my watch in the car by accident, but decided not to go back for it and just run on feel. I knew that I couldn’t stress out about time and either my hip/butt area would feel okay or it wouldn’t. When the race started I ran easy for a bit but it was pretty uncomfortable at first. I thought maybe after the first mile my leg would start feeling better (more warmed up) but it didn’t really—I did realize that having a longer stride and running faster made it feel a little better so I did that—I knew that running faster in the long run wouldn’t help me as I was pretty out of breath sometimes, but I just started alternating with walk breaks. I tried to limit my walk breaks in the first few miles (by few, I mean like 8 or so) to no more than one or two short one per mile and I’d pick a landmark in the distance like a mailbox or fire hydrant or car that I’d make myself start running again.
The course left St Charles and headed into the surrounding farmland. Then we headed into New Town, which I think is kind of creepy in a Pleasantville/Stepford Wives sort of way, but the crowd support is nice. We ran around a lake and there was a guy in a wet suit swimming in it. I had dumped my gray shirt by then (I left it at the first water stop to donate) but I thought he must be cold.
I stopped somewhere after mile 8 to stretch out my hip, which was becoming increasingly painful. I kept trying to keep the same people around me with my run/walk "intervals" but I was starting to fall behind as the running was hurting so much less than the walking. I kept telling myself it was okay, this was supposed to hurt, but a little voice my head would tell me that I had a tendency to injure myself doing stupid stuff, like, remember how I hurt my shoulder, and I was fighting that battle. I also knew that I would be struggling with a giant hill soon.
I was walking and a guy came up behind me and started cheering me on—he said I needed to run again because he had been keeping pace with me for at least 5 miles and "whatever run/walk interval I was doing I needed to keep it up because it was perfect"…I tried to tell him I was just struggling to not die, but he yelled at me to stay ahead of him so I ran away. I never saw him again—I do have a feeling he must have passed me though, because I probably ran another 1/2 mile but then I just couldn’t. I walked up the entire hill, I walked as fast as I could (and I was definitely limping) but I just couldn’t run the hill. I definitely lost time there, and then at the top of the first incline I tried to run a little more and it was just so painful. Oh, and after the uphill was finally over, there was a ridiculously steep downhill right away…um, thanks?
The last couple miles were SO hard. I’d run a bit, stop and walk, did some stretches, would tell myself it hurt no matter so I might as well run, and that was pretty much the cycle. Mile 12 I was just trying not to cry! FINALLY the finish line was in sight. I ran as fast as I could, which I would imagine was approximately a 12 minute mile pace at that point, and crossed the finish just shy of 2:40. Not my goal, not my greatest performance, but I MADE it.
I grabbed my medal, two bottles of water, and staggered down the finish chute. I dragged myself towards the area where Jen and planned to meet and saw her right away. I was just trying to not fall over, and then I collapsed on the ground!
Finally I got the energy to get out my phone and text Chris that I was done, and saw this:
I forgot I’d signed up for twitter updates! So all my followers got to see my negative splits ;)
After a few minutes of lying on the grass groaning and moaning (and stretching) we managed to stand up. This was no small feat!
We went back to the car and the parking lot was completely backed up. It took us over an hour to get out of the parking lot. This definitely needs to be addressed for next year, I think.
I took some self portraits while we were delayed in the car.
The medal was HEAVY! I was almost too tired to wear it around my neck. I managed though. It was also pretty large.
We went to Uncle Bill’s for breakfast then. I thought that eggs, hash browns, and pancakes weren’t QUITE enough food so I added the biscuits and gravy. I would HIGHLY recommend the biscuits and gravy in the future, just FYI. Oh, and I wasn’t able to finish all of this, though I tried.
Later that night the celebration was a little different. I used a fancy wine glass that was a shower gift.
Another picture of the medal, and of the long sleeve technical shirt.
All in all, a fun and well run race. I would have hoped for a better time and a better training cycle, but that’s how it goes. My hip WILL heal and be better (it’s not exactly my hip but I’m just hard pressed to explain where the pain begins—another blogger has what I’ve decided is a similar problem (though I think hers is worse) and she referred to it as the leg/buttcrease area. I’m definitely taking the week (or more) off from running, but I am PROUD that I finished despite the pain.